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Volume 90

January 1984 to December 1984

















Spiderhunters, by Bryan and Anne Peck (with plates and drawing)

Breeding the Hyacinthine Macaw Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, by Daphne and Walter Grunebaum (with plate) .


Notes on breeding the Hyacinthine Macaw by Gerd Volkemer . 17


Breeding Duivenbode’s Lory Chalcopsitta duivenbodei

by Rosemary Low (with plate) . 19

Breeding the Collared Warbling Finch Poospiza hispaniolensis

by Jeffrey Trollope (with plates) . 27

Hand-rearing the White-cheeked Touraco Tauraco leucotis at the

Padstow Bird Gardens, by Kevin Evans (with plate) . 32

Breeding the Golden-breasted Starling Cosmopsarus regius by Kevin Bell . 34

Breeding the Yellow-billed Hombill Tockusflavirostris by B. Marshall

(with plate) . 36

Broadhalfpenny Down Conservation Sanctuary - 1983,

by Patricia Stoodley (with plates) . 41

Some aspects and problems of sexual dimorphism in birds, by Derek Goodwin (with line drawings) .

News from London Zoo, by Peter J. Olney .

Review .






A vicultural Magazine Master Sets

First Breeding Awards. Notices .



THE AVICULTURAL MAGAZINE welcomes original articles that have not been published elsewhere and that essentially concern the aviculture of a particular bird or group of birds, or that describe their natural history. Articles should be preferably typewritten, with double spacing, and the scientific names as well as the vernacular names of birds should be given. References cited in the text should be listed at the end of the article. Line drawings should be in Indian ink on thick paper or card; photographs which illustrate a particular point in the article will be used where possible and should be clearly captioned.


Mary Harvey, Windsor Forest Stud, Mill Ride, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 8LT, England.

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter

B. Peck

Naked-faced Spiderhunter

B. Peck

Avicultural Magazine


Vol. 90 - No. 1 - 1984 ISSN 0005-2256 All rights reserved


By BRYAN and ANNE PECK (Cheltenham)

Very little has appeared to date in avicultural literature on the ten species of Spiderhunters which make up the genus Arachnothera. Gener¬ ally grouped with the Sunbirds in the family Nectariniidae, they do, however, differ in several respects from the true Sunbirds by lacking metallic coloured areas of plumage in the male, having no noticeable dimorphism between the sexes (in most cases) and the different, often unique nest structure, characteristics which would make them strong candidates for family status in their own right. Their distribution is throughout South-east Asia and some of the Indonesian and Philippine islands.

Classification of species within the genus depends on the author. Gruson (1976) lists them in alphabetical order but for the purpose of this article, which concerns avicultural experiences, the order of sequence is based on diet, display and behaviour. It must be noted, however, that some species have yet to become available to the aviculturist. An asterisk (*) indicates the species with which we have experience.

The genus Arachnothera

*Little Spiderhunter *Thick-billed Spiderhunter *Naked-faced Spiderhunter *Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Everett’s (Kinabalu) Spiderhunter

*Yellow-eared Spiderhunter * Long-billed Spiderhunter Whitehead’s Spiderhunter *Spectacled Spiderhunter *Streaked Spiderhunter

A. longirostris A. crassirostris A. clarae (philipp ensis) A. affinis

A. everetti A. chrysogenys A. robusta A. juliae A. flavigaster A. magna

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A. chrysogenys and A. flavigaster are commonly called the Lesser Yellow-eared and Greater Yellow-eared Spiderhunters respectively by aviculturists but as this tends to indicate a close relationship, we have used Yellow-eared and Spectacled as, apart from the visual, there are no close ties.


Before quarantine, Spiderhunters were imported into Britain in large numbers, most of which arrived in very bad condition. The main problems were two-fold - bad feet and Candida fungus in the mouth regions. These days, only one importer brings them into Britain with any regularity and those that have been released from quarantine have mostly been in superb condition, although a few have had poor feet, due mainly to the way in which they were trapped. Fungus is now a problem of the past as it can easily be treated with Nystan lightly dabbed on the infected areas twice a day. Diet, which is dicusssed next, and seclusion are the main priorities with newly imported birds. All but two species have been imported since quarantine restrictions were imposed, and of these the Grey-breasted and Spectacled are the most numerous.


In captivity the bulk of the diet must be made up of a good quality nectar mix. There are many such mixtures that can be used and the follow¬ ing has proved very successful with us over the last few years :-

50 gr. white sugar 5 mgr. activated dried yeast 5 mgr. plant pollen

These ingredients are made into a paste and diluted with 500 ml of boiling water and allowed to cool. The following are then added.

20 mgr. spoon of Minamino 2Vi mgr. Becosym “B” group structure 2Vi mgr. fresh minced beef

It has been found that Spiderhunters make better use of their nectar if fed from an open dish on the floor of the cage rather than fed from the more conventional type of water hopper. We use a 3 inch diameter earthenware dish as it is a good size for one bird’s food and the fruit and cake, fed with the nectar, can easily be picked out. Fruit, which is added to the nectar, must be finely dried. A variety is accepted including

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apple, grape, banana, tomato, and elderberries and red and black currants when in season. Carrot is also taken. It must be diced very small for the smaller members, but can be V4 inch cubes for the larger species. We have experimented with an electric blender to combine fruit and nectar but this makes it into a paste which our Spiderhunters will not take. We also feed separately brown bread and milk sweetened with a little sugar.

A fine grade softfood can also be offered but with what is already provided, it should not be needed but does provide variety if taken. The addition of a mineral supplement such as SA37 or Stress will provide most of the extra minerals and Adexolin will do the same with the vita¬ mins. Both are best added to the nectar rather than the bread and milk. Extra calcium can be provided in the form of cuttlefish “bone”, scraped to a powder and sprinkled over the nectar. We also add Orlusc insectile mix and dried insects on alternate days with the fruit.

Insects are essential for longevity and must be as varied as possible and take the form of blowflies, fruit flies, spiders, crickets, first and second instar locusts, small moths and butterflies; in fact, any soft bodied insect that is available. Some types must be persevered with even though the birds may take some time before they become accustomed to them.

The first Spiderhunter I kept in the 1960’s was A chrysogenys and he was fed about 20 Wolf Spiders daily. He lived for five years, eventually dying from a form of stroke. Now, 15 years later, I rarely feed spiders, preferring crickets and first and second instar locusts. One or two a month are given per bird and then only as a tid-bit. We find this is ample and there is little doubt that they could do without spiders altogether - but we find that it has become a habit of ours while in the garden to catch any spiders seen.


With a group of birds that have not been bred in captivity, how to house them for optimum success is purely speculative. It is known that they can be kept for periods of five years or so in both cage and aviary. Cages are most important during the first year of captive life as they enable birds to be acclimatised and fully established. They should be of the box type, at least a metre long by half a metre high, with depth the same. Perching is most important as Spiderhunters are hygiene conscious wiping their beaks on the perch to remove food that has adhered to the beak after each feed. Therefore, two sets are kept and changed daily. Perches should be of soft wood or natural twigs. We prefer soft wood dowl, redwood, spruce, deal or birch. Soft wood holds its moisture for longer periods; natural twigs dry out very quickly. Apple, pear and elder can become hard in a matter of weeks, whereas soft wood can be



soaked when dry. It has been found that soft wood leads to fewer foot troubles.

A box type cage will decrease the initial stress period because the bird can find seclusion and should settle quickly if not disturbed more than necessary. Needless to say, only one bird per cage cuts out com¬ petition for food and roosting positions. This type of accommodation is also important if specimens need medication.

After the first moult, an aviary is more in line with today’s thoughts and a small tropical house to one pair of Spiderhunters would be ideal. An outside flight could be utilised during summer months and readers are requested to refer to Mr. R. Elgar’s notes on Humming Bird manage¬ ment in a previous issue of this Magazine (Volume 88, No. 4) as the sugges¬ tions put forward by him can be applied equally to Spiderhunters.

Spiderhunters, as stated previously, have not bred in captivity and for them to have a chance, the provision of large-leaved plants is essen¬ tial. The nest structure of various species is divided into three types: open cup suspended from a leaf; two leaves stitched together; and a tunnel type nest stitched to the underside of a leaf. Material for con¬ struction must be as varied as possible but the availability of masses of cobwebs is important as without this a nest will doubtfully progress very far.

The species of plants able to support this type of nest that are available to the aviculturist are limited but three which are available and can be tried are the Cheese Plant, Rubber Plant and Banana. The latter plays host to nests of some species in the wild and the provision of several of the dwarf varieties would perhaps give the best chance of success. The related Sunbirds have been known to accept an artificial structure, usually a box, so the provision of an artificial nest, a long wicker tunnel supported beneath a large leaf, may coax them into nest¬ ing. Such a tunnel would probably have to be home made.

All the large Spiderhunters have parts of the day which are filled with high activity. This does not seem to be so with A. longirostris and A. crassirostris.

Little Spiderhunter Arachno them longirostris

Range: India to South West China, south to the Philippines, west to Malaya and most of the islands within this rectangle. Twelve subspecies are recognised.

Habitat: Reputed to be a common species inhabiting secondary forest growth, cultivated gardens and areas where wild bananas grow, and is said to play an important part in their pollination.

Description: Size 6 Vi inches. Upper parts, from head to base of tail,




slate grey tinged with green; tail lighter tipped with off-white. Upper breast and throat grey- white, belly and undertail coverts yellow. Eyebrow stripe grey, white below. Bill dark blue grey (blackish), the lower mandible lighter. Eye dark brown. Feet blue grey. Both sexes have pectoral tufts which are only visible when roosting or in the male when displaying. Those of the male are orange-yellow and females are yellow. Adults lose all yellow and green in captivity, except for pectoral tufts which become lighter. Differs from A. crassirostris by feet, facial markings and thinner bill. Immatures have a paler eye stripe and throat tinged yellowish olive.

Comments: Having owned the nominate race and several of the sub¬ species, there is very little between them. Like the Thick-billed Spider- hunter, it is difficult to establish, mainly because both are very insecti¬ vorous, and not nearly so inquisitive as larger members of the genus. There is some difference in the size of birds imported from different areas, but most are heavier than crassirostris.

They travel badly, with very few living long in captivity and generally are not nearly as robust as the larger Arachnothera. Insects, especially fruit flies, are vital and in this respect they are like the Asiatic Sunbirds. With a great deal of patience they can be induced to take large spiders, crickets and first and second instar locusts.

The moult seems to take a greater toll on A. longirostris due mainly to the fact that they are reluctant to sample more diverse food. It is also a species of a nervous disposition- we have had a female for three years that is still quite flighty, which would indicate strong flight reflexes.

A. longirostris in general is an early rooster and also very selective about the roosting perch. They have the ability to hover in the manner of some sunbirds. They can be kept in small groups, the pair bond apparently being very strong in this species.

The Little Spiderhunter has a peculiar bathing routine: it enters the water backwards, washing its tail and vent first. I have heard of other birds bathing in this way but never witnessed it before. All individuals of this species that we have owned have bathed in an identical way.

Thick-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera crassirostris

Range: Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. No sub¬ species.

Habitat: A rare species of lowland forests and secondary growth up to 4,000 feet.

Description: Size 6V2 inches. One of the smallest species in overall length and certainly the lightest in body weight. Crown, nape, back, wings and tail dark grey; tail tipped as in longirostris. Upper tail and belly light yellow, upper breast and throat grey. Eyebrow light grey with the dark grey eye



stripe stretching to nape. Most field guides indicate that pectoral tufts are present only in the male, but we believe this to be incorrect as birds that we have owned have displayed to each other and on roosting both exhibi¬ ted pectoral tufts which, when held in the hand, are difficult to find. Bill

brown with dark flesh coloured feet.

Comments: One of the most delicate of the genus to establish and even then they require special foods and much attention. Establishing is made all the more difficult because of their shyness and very few learn to take food from the hand. Time is a strong factor as most die within 18 months of importation, usually from heart, liver or blood disorders. Post mortem examinations of dead birds reveal liver and heart discoloration, due we think to a greatly over-rich diet. Once tame they should be induced to a diet of more fruit and less of a sugar diet. We have had several but they seldom live more than two years.

This species is seldom imported because of its rare status in the whole of its range. It does not stand the inclement weather of Britain very well and if housed outside, quarters should be heated to around 55°F at night.

One egg laid on floor of cage was small in size - 10 mm - and was white, lightly speckled with mauve at the blunt end.

Naked-faced Spiderhunter Arachnothera clarae

Range: Philippines and its many islands.

Habitat: A bird of lowland jungle and ravines near water.

Description: Crown, nape and upperparts, including tail and secon¬ daries, olive-brown; primaries old gold; feet flesh coloured with scales edged brown; toe nails dark; eye brown; bill black; naked skin on both sides of face below eye. Breast grey, but feathers give a two-tone effect as one side of breast feathers is a darker grey. No pectoral tufts, but distinct gold shoulder patches which could be a sex difference. These are a distinc¬ tive field character. Dupont describes the body colour as green, but the subspecies we own, Ac. luzonensis, is as above.

Comments: Hardy in cool temperatures but would not stand our win¬ ter conditions. Very tame even when first imported and mixes well with other birds although it will not tolerate other spiderhunters. Has a great liking for newly-hatched stick insects and spiders.

Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys

Range: Greater Sunda Islands, Thailand and Malaya.

Habitat: Lowland forest but recorded up to 3,000 ft. Reported to be common in Malaya.

Description: Length 1-T/i in (18-19 cm). General body colour varies over the whole range from green through to grey. Yellow eye ring and ear



B. Peck

Head study of Arachnothera chrysogenys, showing eye ring and ear patch

patch (not connected). Yellowish on the throat; forehead streaked; bill brown, lighter below; eye light brown; feet flesh coloured. Immature are duller and lacking streaked forehead; some have reduced ear patch and eye ring or it is lacking completely.

Comments: This species is not over-aggressive when two or more are kept together, but must be watched as they can at times turn spiteful. When they do fight, they tend to strike for the eyes and head region. Insectivorous, especially spiders of all sizes, even very large garden spi¬ ders. Will tame very quickly if tempted with spiders; all those we have kept have done so.

Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera affinis

Range: Thailand, Malaya through to the Greater Sunda Islands.

Habitat: Forest secondary growth near flowering banana. Locally common over most of its range up to 3,500 ft.

Description: Upperparts olive-green with darker streaks on throat and forehead. Olive-grey beneath becoming much paler at vent and underside of tail. Primaries and tail dark grey with tail bands occasionally present. Pectoral tufts are light in colour although some carry more yellow than others. Bill brown but tip and underside a lighter shade; feet pink tinged and eye colour varies from light to dark brown. Length 7 in (18 cm) but the Malay raceAtf. modesta is smaller.

Comments: Not aggressive and can be kept in small groups. Although two males will occasionally “sham up” to each other, it rarely develops


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beyond this. General habits are more like the larger sunbirds. Not as in¬ quisitive as other members of this group, it is more insectivorous than the larger species, taking flies, spiders, crickets and first instar locusts but it has trouble with larger insects. Nest not described, but in captivity has built in a finch nest-box. Often misnamed by dealers as it can be mis¬ taken for A. robusta and A. everetti.

Long-billed Spiderhunter Arachnothera robusta Range: Sumatra, Borneo, Malaya and Thailand.

Habitat: Forest secondary growth up to 4,500 ft.

Description: Olive green on back, wings and tail; breast and belly lighter, lightly streaked and tinged yellow on centre of breast and belly. Very small area of naked skin around eye; beak dark brown, horn- coloured underneath, about 10 mm thick at base and 50 mm in length. Wing shoulders bright yellow. Each tail feather is tipped with a white spot giving the impression of a band. Pectoral tufts are yellow in the hen and orange in the male. Length approximately SVi in (21.5 cm).

Comments: Very aggressive and difficult to keep two together. Both sexes show pectoral tufts when displaying and when roosting. Once estab¬ lished, quite easy to keep, accepting the diet offered to the larger species but probably the least insectivorous of the genus imported. Very vocal, a short note often repeated for long periods. Bathes regularly and tames quickly.

Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna

Range: Himalayas, China, India, Burma, Malaya, Thailand and Laos. Breeds between 1800 and 4500 ft in India.

Habitat: Forest, secondary growth and clearings, especially near wild banana.

Description: Length 6V2-IV2 in (16.5-19 cm). Yellow olive, streaked black, finely on throat but getting larger on breast, back and head. Tail and wings brownish green. Bill black; feet vary from orange to yellow and eyes from black to brown.

Comments: When birds were imported from India they were quite numerous but few have been imported recently. Suffers badly with its feet when first imported. The birds we have owned of this species that were of Indian origin seemed to mix quite well together but those from Malaya were quite aggressive.

Very easy to feed, even when first imported and will take most insects plus most forms of conventional food, i.e. sponge cake and nectar, bread and milk, fruit and soft food. Very tame. It is reputed to be the largest of the spiderhunters but from personal experience this is not so; the largest

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birds we have owned are A. clarae and A. flavigaster.

Spectacled Spiderhunter Arachnothera flavigaster

Range: Sumatra, Borneo, Malaya and Thailand.

Habitat: Locally common in secondary growth.

Description: Body, head, wings and tail olive green; breast and under¬ tail greyish yellow. Covered edge of flight and tail feathers brownish green. Bold eye ring and ear patch yellow. Beak dark brown; eye brown and feet horn-coloured.

Comments: One of the easiest to feed. A large bird, probably the largest if measured by body weight. Very tame and can be kept in pairs or groups, but again must be watched. Able to take large insects such as adult crickets and third instar locusts.

Whitehead’s Spiderhunter Arachnothera juliae Everett’s Spiderhunter Arachnothera everetti

Both of the two remaining species of spiderhunter occur only on Borneo and it is unlikely that either has been imported. Information about their natural history can be found in The Birds of Borneo by B.E. Smythies. We have seen a skin of everetti and have grouped it, along with juliae in Group 2 where we think they belong.

The groupings below are based on observations and experience of the various species in captivity and what we have been able to find out about their natural history.

Group 1 : A. crassirostris, A. longirostris

This group consists of the two smallest species which are similar in plumage although this is not the major similarity, the important common characteristics being diet and display..

The display of both is a series of stretch-posing by the male and wing fluttering by the female. A. longirostris will show its pectoral tufts most times it displays, but crassirostris only shows them when posing with its wings open. Both have tail feathers tipped or barred and the feet of both are very similar to those of the large sunbirds, in that the toes are formed with the nails being short but curved.

We experienced great difficulty in getting these two species to take any substitute for live food which was difficult to supply as they would only take small spiders and fruit flies. It was some time before house flies and bluebottles were taken, and even then the birds showed little interest. They would probably have taken small stick insects but at the time we had not started to use these.

A friend had a longirostris that laid an egg on the floor of a cage. Ours



have never shown any nest-building behaviour, although they did mate.

Group 2: A. clarae, A. chrysogenys, (A. everetti), A. affinis, A. rob- usta, (A. juliae)

This group contains the true spiderhunters. In appearance they are very similar. A. clarae has the shortest beak but this is not an indication of how

insectivorous it is as the most insectivorous species in the group is chryso¬ genys but none is very dependent on live food in its diet.

The songs of A. clarae, affinis and robusta are so similar that we are unable to tell them apart \ chrysogenys has a higher pitched song.

The dietary requirements are basically half insectivorous and half nectar and fruit. Notes from wild observations indicate that fruit juice, rather than the actual fruit, is eaten.

Group 3 : A. magna and A. flavigaster

This group contains the largest species of the genus. Both are robust birds and able to take quite large insects. The display of A. magna is mainly wing flutterings and neck stretching; its whistle is a sharp note.


I extend my thanks to John Chandler for notes on A. clarae in the wild and to Colin Vince for notes on establishing spiderhunters in captivity.


ALI, S. and RIPLEY, D. (1974). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan.

Vol. 10. Oxford University Press.

DELACOUR, J. (1947). Birds of Malaysia. Hamilton.

DUPONT, J.E. (1971). Philippine Birds. Delaware Museum of Natural History. GLENISTER, A.G. (1955). The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Oxford University Press. GRUSON, E.S. (1976). A Checklist of the Birds of the World. Collins.

HOPPE, R. (1969). Short notes on some of my birds. Avicultural Magazine 75: 164. KING, B„ WOODCOCK, M. and DICKINSON, E.C. (1975). A Field Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia. Collins.

MEDWAY, Lord, and WELLS, D.R. (1976). The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Vol. 5. PECK, A. (1980). Long-billed Spiderhunters. Foreign Birds. Vol. 46, 1.

PORTER, S. (1931). Everett’s and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters. Avicultural Maga¬ zine, 4th ser. Vol. XI: 192-196.

SILVER, A. (1965). Spiderhunters. Foreign Birds. Vol. 31, 3.

SMYTHIES, B.E. (1953). The Birds of Burma. Oliver and Boyd.

. (1968). The Birds of Borneo. Oliver and Boyd.

Previous notes from the Avicultural Magazine:

HOPPE, R. (1969). Short notes on some of my birds (Streaked Spiderhunter A. magna). P. 164.


Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus



Six years ago we acquired a pair of Hyacinthine Macaws and as we were unfamiliar with these beautiful birds, we sought information when¬ ever possible. We discovered from reference books that they inhabit the forests, swamps and palm groves of the interior of southern Brazil and the westernmost parts of Bolivia; also that a great deal of their habitat is now being lost, owing to the opening up of Brazil, and that numbers of the birds are used by the natives for food.

Their diet consists of fruit, seeds and nuts of various kinds. They are mostly seen in pairs and, if disturbed, will circle round, screeching, and then settle in the tops of tall trees. The staff at Kew Gardens told us that the trees have a very quick leaf fall, and are almost immediately re-estab¬ lished.

These macaws are the largest of all parrots, their length overall being 35 inches (89 cm); the tail of the immature bird is a little shorter.

All this was interesting but did not make us much the wiser at keeping Hyacinthine Macaws in captivity in the English climate and with the limited variety of food available here.

When our birds arrived, they were seen feeding each other and gave every indication of being a true pair. The cock bird had a long white tail feather and several white flecks on his shoulders so it was easy to dis¬ tinguish him from the hen. We put them in our largest aviary, which was not at all suitable as it was made of wood but it did have a flight 10 ft (3 m) high and nearly 40 ft (12 m) long. Their “house” measured about 8 ft (2.5 m) x 12 ft (3.65 m) at the apex, with a large, sturdy box 2 ft (61 cm) square, with a tin base, placed as high as possible on one wall. The birds obviously liked the height but it proved disastrous from our point of view, when trying either to inspect or photograph. A barrel was provided on the ground, together with two others in the flight outside, placed at various heights. All these barrels were ignored. Several natural branches of various thickness were fixed inside for them to roost on and, again, were placed as high as possible. Their house was well lit and heating was also available, used mainly at night. Their house opened on to a covered “verandah” where they had their food and drink, and where they could see all that was going on. From there they had their long flight to a small perspex-covered shelter at the far end, where they could get out of the



wind, which they cannot tolerate. Several branches of fresh willow, ash or fruitwood were placed in the aviary, along one side only to allow the birds flight to be uninterrupted.

When they first came to us, their diet consisted solely of coconut, Brazil nuts and an occasional apple. Nothing else was taken, and sunflower seed was totally rejected so their diet was the first problem we had to over¬ come. We put another pair of macaws in an adjacent aviary, and the sight of these birds obviously enjoying banana and various foods eventually persuaded the Hyacinthines to add other fruits and vegetables to their diet.

After two years, in late March, the hen became interested in her box and laid two eggs. The incubation period is 28 days but at the end of this time the eggs vanished, presumably infertile. Alter another two months she laid two more eggs, but regrettably the chicks were dead in shell. The following year the hen died in May, quite suddenly and without any signs of previous illness. The post mortem examination disclosed that she had no eggs inside her, that she had emphysema and a fatty heart. Perhaps her previous unsatisfactory diet had some bearing on this.

The cock bird appeared distraught at her death, so we put a young Blue and Yellow Macaw into the aviary to keep him company. She taught him to eat sunflower seed, albeit reluctantly. During this time we searched for another bird, without any success. The cock bird went into moult and lost his white feathers.

After three months of indefatigable search, we eventually found another bird. It was not surgically sexed so we had to take a chance. Its feathers were dull and the yellow skin around the lower mandible was a pale cream colour, which, compared to the colour of our cock, which was dark orange, looked almost anaemic and on arrival she ate only Brazil nuts and white sunflower seed.

We put the two together in September 1982 and after three months we noticed that her diet had changed and they were both eating a good variety of food, which consisted mainly of coconuts, Brazil nuts and sweetcorn (fresh or defrosted frozen), augmented by bananas, grapes, apples, peas, broad beans and carrots, in season, and a few peanuts and walnuts. These last were not much favoured. Gradually the sunflower seed was abandoned. We no longer worried about their diet as their feathers were shining and the yellow skin on the new bird was becoming darker by the week.

The first indication that they might be courting came when we opened the trap for the cock to fly at liberty to which he had been accustomed before his first hen died though since then we had kept him shut in. To our astonishment he would not go out! He became very excited and flew backwards and forwards into his house, refusing to go near the trap.





Shortly after this we saw, and heard them mating and on 26th March 1983 to our great relief, she laid two eggs. Three days before the 28-day incuba¬ tion period ended the cock opened up the roof of his flight and both birds were found playing about the garden. As it was her first time at liberty, with eggs in the box, it was a nasty moment. However, by leaving them quietly to their own devices, they put themselves back in with no trouble at all but they lost interest in the eggs which disappeared, presumably in¬ fertile. It was then the 25th April.

However, in May 1983 the hen was back in the box again, sitting tight. The first egg must have been laid between 14th and 16th May. We increased the heat at this point, and with the aid of an old boiler and a piece of pipe, we were able to get a thin plume of steam into the house, thereby increas¬ ing the level of humidity. We would do this once or twice a day for an hour or two. It was interesting to see that from this moment, whenever we approached the aviary, the parents would assume a defensive position with backs together and tails crossed, accompanied by loud cries. They would stay like this until we moved away.

It was on 15th June that we heard the unmistakeable sound of macaw- chick noises coming from the box. It was an unforgettable moment, for although we have bred so many Blue and Yellow Macaws, somehow this was very different. The next day we were able to see the chick, which was tiny and appeared to be black skinned. There was also a second egg which had been abandoned. On 19th June we looked in again and saw that the chick was now definitely pink and already much larger. The parents now started to search for grit early in the morning and we put a pile of lime¬ stones in their flight, which they would pick up and grind in their beaks. We have never seen them eat commercial grit. On 17th June yet another egg appeared but by the following night it had vanished. The chick then made steady progress, dark quills being visible by 7th July.

The parents’ diet at this time consisted of the usual coconuts and sweetcorn but they now enjoyed broad beans which were in season, and the first early peas. However, they could not be persuaded to eat any kind of soft rearing foot, which was eaten in quantity by the Blue and Yellow Macaws. A lot of cuttlefish “bone” was taken and daily vitamins were given in the drinking water.

At six weeks the yellow skin around the black beak and eyes could be seen and the chick started to look like a real Hyacinthine. The tail was about 5 in (12.5 cm) long and, apart from a few bare patches on its back, the chick appeared to be fully feathered and had become very aware of its surroundings. The parents now started to consume large quantities of cob and hazel nuts, even when they were still green and unripe.



D. Grunebaum

Hyacinthine Macaw family group: chick at 31/? months with cock (left), hen (right)